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Which Flea Medication Is Best for Your Pet?

Updated on February 11, 2017
Is your cat itchy?
Is your cat itchy? | Source

Proper flea prevention is key to keeping your pet healthy and your home free of parasites. Fleas can cause a number of issues including allergic reactions, anemia, tapeworms, itching, scratching, and even diseases that can be severe or fatal. Here are some of the different types of flea medications, and how they can benefit your pet.

Flea Medications Part 1

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments are the most commonly used flea preventive and are the most widely available. They can be purchased over the counter, or directly from a veterinarian. Typically, a veterinarian will have a stronger, prescription-only product, however, in recent years many of these products such as Frontline and Advantage have become over the counter. Topical products work by integrating with your pet’s skin and coat oil secretion areas, for full-body protection. The parasite then hops onto your pet, and either dies from contact, or bites them in an attempt to feed, and dies.

Topicals are great as they don’t require you to feed your pet a pill and can get to work within hours. They also kill the flea and break the flea-egg life cycle to stop infestations. Care should be taken, however, to make sure you are using the correct product for a dog or cat as the active ingredients in many canine topical flea medications are toxic and even deadly to cats.

Fleas can be a big problem.
Fleas can be a big problem. | Source

Oral Treatments

Oral treatments are less commonly used, and for a time were only used in veterinary clinics. However, products such as Capstar have become widely available in retail stores. Oral products work systemically, meaning a flea has to bite your pet in order to be killed. Oral products don’t work on the flea life cycle, and only kill adult fleas that attempt to feed on your pet. However, oral medications have the advantage of being VERY effective and going to work within 30 minutes to hours, perfect for large infestations causing a problem.

Itching is no joke.
Itching is no joke. | Source

Prescription Collars

Flea collars were typically something only found in stores and were thought to be relatively ineffective in taking care of fleas. They work as a repellent, preventing fleas from wanting to jump on your pet at all. However, many over the counter flea collars have a limited time of efficacy, and may only work to prevent fleas around the area of the collar, allowing them to feed in other locations such as at the base of the tail.

In recent years, prescription flea collars have become available, such as Seresto. These work more like a topical product than a traditional flea collar and release an ingredient that works in much the same way as a topical flea medication. Its advantage is that it can continuously release this product over 8 months at a time, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to reapply a medication monthly.

Some over the counter choices.
Some over the counter choices. | Source

Over the Counter Sprays, Powders, and Shampoos

Over the counter sprays, powders, and shampoos have their place in taking care of fleas, but often have problems with efficacy or sustained treatment. These products usually work by quickly killing any fleas on the body or environment where they are used, but have no long-term efficacy to prevent fleas from jumping back on the body. In the case of needing immediate relief from fleas, or cleaning the environment, they are very useful.

What type of Flea Medication do you use?

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Bottom Line

In addition to preventive medications to kill fleas on your pet’s body, care should be taken to clean the environment as well. Flea eggs can live up to 6 months in the environment, so bedding, carpets and more should all be cleaned at the same time to prevent reinfestation. Choosing the right product depends greatly on how you want to treat fleas, your pet’s species, and any allergies they may have. Talking with your vet is best to determine the right treatment option for you and your pet.

Flea Medications Part 2

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